Safe Android Apps

Safe Android Apps: Logos for the Google Play Store for Android AppsA member asks…

How can I tell if an Android App is safe to install on my Android smartphone?

Your first move should be to avoid installing any app on your Android smartphone that doesn’t come from the Google Play Store. Google has gotten a lot better at vetting apps before they allow them on the app store, and making sure the apps are legit and have no malware. If you get your apps from any other place, you are taking a real risk.

You might want to also give some consideration for installing a security app on your Android smartphone. We like Bitdefender Mobile Security, Norton Security & AntivirusAvast, and Qihoo 360 Security, although you can search the app store for ‘security’ and choose any one you like. If you also have a Microsoft Windows PC, you may want to choose the mobile security app from the same company that you get your PC security software from – just to make things easier with similar controls.

But there’s really only a few sure-fire ways to tell if an app is safe:

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  1. just-the-right-answer-graphic-image-from-shutterstockAsk us! Tell us here or in the comments below what the name of the app (and the vendor) is, and we’ll research it for you and give you a thumbs up (or down).
  2. Do your own research and search online about the app. You can search on the name of the app by itself and read anything written about it (by someone other than the company that makes it), and also do other searches that include the app name and additional search terms such as ‘malware’, ‘spyware’, ‘virus’, ‘scam’, and ‘hoax’. Read some of the pages that come up in the search results and look for any damning information. Also research the app developer to see if they are known on the internet as a legit app developer.
  3. Use a security app that scans your installed apps and tells you if there’s anything suspicious. We like two: Lookout and Norton Security & Antivirus

Even legit apps can take undesirable action once you install them, so you should check for what permissions they need, and deny any that don’t fit with what you intend using the app for. A weather app shouldn’t be asking for access to your contacts for example. Be suspicious about granting apps permission to anything, don’t just click the OK link to get past all that stuff. Take a moment to read and think about what the app is going to do for you, and if you think it needs access to any of your personal data in order to help you.

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